New streaming audio!

Southern Folklife Collection John M. Rivers, Jr. Studio. Photo by Dan SearsThe Southern Folklife Collection now has well over 5000 streaming audio files of digitized archival recordings. Recent additions have been made possible through support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We’ve shared streaming recordings from the William R. Ferris Collection (20367), Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245) and the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) in the past, but we have since more than doubled the amount of streaming content. We’d love to hear your favorites, but as an introduction, we pulled a few that we found particularly fascinating from the most recent additions. Click on the link to go directly to a streaming audio file:

8611: AG 427: Joe Caudill, Bertie Dickens, and Dan Williams, recorded in December 1971 in Ennis, N.C. (continued from AG 424) / Various Others. Side 1Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 12.30.47 PM

  • From the Bob Carlin Collection (20050), The Spencer Brothers, Lance and Maynard. Originally from Virginia, The Spencer Brothers performed on Greensboro’s WBIG and with Stringbean as part of Charlie Monroe’s Kentucky Partners Troupe in the 1940s.

7009: Spencer Brothers at Sister Ruth’s home; recorded by Brad Spencer. 1985.: Side 1Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 12.35.26 PM

  • From the Tom Davenport Collection (20025), we’ve added a number of interviews with Arthur Jackson, aka Peg Leg Sam, and members of the Joines family . Here is one of Jackson conducted during the making of the excellent documentary film, Born for Hard Luck (view it on

324: Peg Leg Sam: interview: Side 1Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 12.36.36 PM

272: John Kelly, fiddle. Dublin. Paddy Glacken, fiddle. Dublin. 2 August 1972. Tony Smith, fiddle. Dublin. 3 August 1972. Side: 1Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 12.37.37 PM

Merle Haggard, April 6, 1937-2016

Merle Haggard at Memorial Hall for SFC25. Photo by Mark Perry Photography.

Merle Haggard at Memorial Hall for SFC25. Photo by Mark Perry Photography.

The world lost another giant today when Merle Haggard left this earth for honky-tonk heaven. The Southern Folklife Collection was privileged to welcome Mr. Haggard at our 25th anniversary celebration in 2014. Seeing him perform at UNC’s Memorial Hall is an experience that will not be forgotten. It was a spectacular performance and I was practically giddy when Haggard picked up the fiddle.

20001_pf2296_Merle Haggard_John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

At the SFC, we would like nothing better to spend the foreseeable future exploring the collections for Merle Haggard content to geek out on and reminisce about the first time we heard one song or another, but, and I think Merle would agree, we have other work to do; other fiddle players to celebrate and mountains of music to share with the world. I discovered countless artists through Haggard, not the least of which was Bob Wills. Even though I come from Texas, it was Merle who introduced me to the “best damn fiddle player in the world.” But for today, I’ve got “Rainbow Stew” on the deck and I pulled out these pictures I have looked at many times from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001) documenting the recording sessions for Bob Wills’s final album, For the Last Time. Sessions, produced by the legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup (another former Cricket like Bobby Durham), took place just outside of Dallas on December 3 and 4, 1973.

Haggard drove all night from Chicago to participate on the final day after begging permission from Wills to attend. Sadly, Wills was unable to complete the session after suffering a severe stroke on the night of December 3 and slipping into a coma the following day never to retain consciousness. Haggard and the band, the first reunion of the Texas Playboys since Wills disbanded the group in the 1960s, pressed on with noted successor of the Bob Wills sound Hoyle Nix stepping up into the boots of his hero to lead the group.

We are not positive, but we believe the photos above include Haggard, fiddlers Keith Coleman and Johnny Gimble, steel guitarist Leon McCauliffe, and the back of guitarist Eldon Shamblin’s head.

Rest easy, Merle. Hope the music is as good in the next place as you made it here.

Fred Cockerham and Tommy Jarrell, 8 July 1971, 16mm film by Blanton Owen

This morning, I had the great privilege of inspecting some 16mm film with AV Archivist Anne Wells and AV Conservator Erica Titkemeyer. The film is part of an unfinished documentary project created by folklorist Blanton Owen and features Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham playing music and talking on the front porch at the Cockerham home in Low Gap, North Carolina on July 8, 1971. For more details see the Blanton Owen Collection (20027) finding aid. The collection includes an edited ten minute segment that Owen created from original elements. This unsynced segment consists of a 16mm magnetic soundtrack (F-20027/9) and a silent 16mm reversal print (F-20027/10), so we put the elements up on a Steenbeck flatbed editor to review the contents and shoot some quick cell phone video for documentation.

Owen recorded the image on 16mm film and recorded the audio on 1/4″ open reel using Nagra sync-sound. Owen then transferred these original 1/4″ open reels to 16mm magnetic soundtrack for editing purposes. The series includes both these original 1/4″ open reel audio recordings (FT-20027/16006-16011) and 16mm magnetic soundtrack film elements (F-20027/8-9) along with the original 16mm picture elements and outtakes (F-20027/1-7, F-20027/10), and field notes associated with the master 1/4″ open reel audio recordings (Folder 1).

The film is not currently digitized for access, however, the quality of the image and the sound recordings are such that we could not help but share.


NC Folk Heritage Awards Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, April 5

wikieditathonOne week from today!

Wikipedia edit-a-thon: North Carolina Heritage Award winners

Tuesday, April 5, 5:00 to 8:45 p.m.

Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

On April 5, the North Carolina Collection and the Southern Folklife Collection will host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, with support from PineCone and the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Join us for an evening of social Wikipedia editing in Wilson Library.

We’ll use collection materials to create, update, and improve articles about North Carolina Heritage Award winners, in anticipation of the Heritage Awards ceremony presented by PineCone and the North Carolina Arts Council:

Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never edited Wikipedia before. Staff will be on hand to help with Wikipedia edits, find books and articles on topics that interest you, and to help you with Wikipedia edits. We’ll provide a list of suggested topics, but participants may pursue any topic they choose.

We’ll have free pizza (and a few salad options) to fuel your research and we’ll be raffling off prizes throughout the evening. 

The event will begin with a brief workshop on Wikipedia editing, but feel free to arrive and leave whenever it suits you.

Please bring a laptop if possible.

More details and RSVP at our Facebook event or on the Wikipedia page at

This edit-a-thon is part of a series that will be hosted by UNC Libraries in March and April.

George Hamilton IV “Behind the Iron Curtain”

"The International Ambassador of Country Music" (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE) in Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, March 1974.

“The International Ambassador of Country Music” (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE) in Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, March 1974.

Looking into the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410) recently, we were reminded that this month is the 42nd Anniversary of George Hamilton IV being the first performer to take American folk-country music “Behind The Iron Curtain.” His 1974 performances and lecture concerts at the Palace of Railway Workers and Moscow University were the first for an American country music performer. Other “first” performances on this tour were in Hungary, Poland, and in former Czechoslovakia, where Hamilton performed four sold-out Concerts for over 28,000 fans at the Sports Arena in Prague. It’s no surprise that later that year, Billboard Magazine began to refer to Hamilton as the “International Ambassador of Country Music.” He would eventually tour around the world, performing multiple times in Japan, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, and India. See this April 2, 1974 New York Times review of the Moscow performances on the George Hamiton IV “Folksy Music Festival” page here.
George Hamilton IV in Bangalore, India, 1986. P5034 in the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

George Hamilton IV in Bangalore, India, 1986. P5034 in the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill



Friday folio: Rev. Andrew Jenkins, Atlanta’s Blind Newsboy Evangelist

30006_FL0733_Southern Folklife Collection_001_Christian Love Songs, Rev. Andrew JenkinsExcited to be steered toward this folio of “Christian Love Songs” by the prolific and talented songwriter, and blind newsboy evangelist, Rev. Andrew Jenkins, FL-733 in the Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios (30006). Published in 1924 by Polk Brockman, the A&R man responsible for encouraging fellow producer Ralph Peer to record Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923, the folio is an example of Brockman’s tendency to take full publication rights from the artists he worked with. This songbook was published early in the Jenkins Family’s recording career as Brockman looked to capitalize on the success of Jenkins’ popular broadcasts on Atlanta’s WSB radio station. For more information and to listen to music by the Jenkins Family (including their many secular songs, like the well known ballad, “The Death of Floyd Collins”), see these resources available at the Southern Folklife Collection. For more information on Polk Brockman, visit or contact the Southern Folklife Collection to listen to recorded interviews listed below from the Ed Kahn Collection (20360) and the Archie Green Papers (20002)

Audiotape FT-12660

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, Ga., 11 August 1961. Tape 1.

Audiotape FT-12661

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, Ga., 11 August 1961. Tape 2.

Audiotape FT-12662

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, Ga., 11 August 1961. Tape 3.

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4064

Interview with Polk Brockman, recorded by Hoeptner and Pinson, Atlanta, GA, 10 July 1959

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4065

Interviews with Polk Brockman, 27 April 1961; Stoneman, 24 May 1962; Mike Seeger, 22 June 1962; Charlie Bowman, Mike Seeger, Union City, Ga., 22 June 1962

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4066

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, GA, 11 August 1961 Reel 1 of 2

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4067

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, GA, 11 August 1961 Reel 2 of 2

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

AV Preservation Project Team Spotlight: Anne Wells

As of late 2015, SFC’s audiovisual preservation and access project team has grown to include three new members! To welcome them, I will be highlighting their work through a series of posts, starting with our AV Archivist, Anne Wells.

Anne is charged with increasing access to SFC collections, old and new, through the development of item level finding aids (for reference, check out the McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection).  Currently, only 30% of SFC collections containing audiovisual materials are described through these finding aids, making the work Anne carries out extremely important to the visibility of SFC holdings. Additionally, as the primary location for streaming our digitized content, the increase in finding aids will allow us to serve more recordings to our patrons and the general public.

For this post I asked Anne to describe the type of work she is currently taking on…


As Erica mentioned, I have been primarily working with SFC’s finding aids since I began last November. These finding aids provide comprehensive overviews of SFC’s unique collections. Thus far, I have spent the majority of my time cleaning up previously made finding aids, or more specifically, EAD XML schema, to make sure they meet specific requirements necessary for the linking of streaming digital access copies. During this process I have also created a standardized language to describe SFC’s audio visual items, including consistent descriptions of format, length, playback attributes and credits, when known.

I have also been lucky enough to get my hands on some of SFC’s AMAZING collections. For instance, I processed the McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection, which includes over 2,000 live concert recordings on ¼” open reel, audiocassette, DAT and CD. I accessioned the collection, arranged the materials chronologically by format, and created a new item level finding aid for the collection. Just to give you a sense of the large scope of the collection, here’s a cropped glance at some of the audiocassettes within the collection:


And here’s a personal favorite found in the collection:


I am now transitioning into mostly creating new SFC finding aids from scratch. I find this kind of work super rewarding, since I personally have a hand in making these collections known and available to the general public for the first time. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on these new finding aids as they become published.


Prior to Anne’s arrival, significant work was put into developing a prioritization model for SFC collections, both for digitization and description. In considering the number of variables that make a collection a high priority, a questionnaire was developed to rate collections on certain factors, including the following factors:

  1. Percentage of formats at risk of deterioration or obsolescence in the collection (including lacquer discs, polyester-based audiotape, and 2” Quadruplex video)
  2. Percentage of unique recordings in the collection
  3. Research value
  4. Previous or expected requests and use by patrons
  5. Previous digitization work
  6. Use and access restrictions

Using the questionnaire, we were able to determine a top-13 list to be prioritized for digitization and access. Fortunately, we found that a number of the collections had already seen some level of attention, so currently we are focusing on completing their digitization, while Anne polishes their finding aids.

Look out for more content in the following collections in the near future:

Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project
Anne Romaine
David and Beverly Patterson
George Hamilton IV
Tom Davenport
Guy and Candie Carawan
Bob Carlin
Archie Green
Mike Seeger
Goldband Recording Corporation
William R. Ferris
Eugene Earle




Join the SFC 78 Cataloging Project!

78 project_collageBe a part of our 78 rpm disc identification project!

In late 2015, the Southern Folklife Collection received a UNC Library Innovation Grant to experiment with technology-driven cataloging for more than 100,000 sound recordings.

Current estimates project that it would take catalogers approximately 45 years to research and create a standard record for each of the thousands of discs. SFC curator, Steve Weiss, proposed a pilot to speed cataloging through automation.

IMG_2549The idea is to take a digital photograph of printed record labels, convert the images to text using optical character recognition (OCR) software, and then combine the text and images to help with workflow, discovery, and access. Crowdsourcing tags and comments may help to add even more information to the process.

Now you can be part of the process. Help us shine a light on these rare gems by visiting our Facebook page and taking a few minutes to give us a little information. For detailed instructions and examples of the process, see our new page 78 Crowdsourcing Project linked to in the tabs in our header at the top of the page.

No prior cataloging experience required! All you need is a love of music and a desire to be part of the effort to help move these records out of semi-obscurity. See more details here.

Friday Studio Surprise!: Chatham Co. hogs and Peg Leg Sam

Peg Leg Sam_20025_FT324_Tom Davenport Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Walking past the John M. Rivers Audio Studio this morning, I was surprised to hear a pig being fed coming from behind the door. I was not surprised when I learned that SFC Audio Engineer, John Loy, was preserving an open reel tape of wild sound from Tom Davenport’s documentary with Peg Leg Sam, Born For Hard Luck. We love hearing raw, wild sound, at the Southern Folklife Collection and this clip of Sam feeding his pigs is just that. “Get it you lousy bums,” he growls. From FT-324 in the Tom Davenport Papers (20025). Below you can see an image from the making of the film, including the boom operator, Kip Lornell, who may have made the recording here. I’m ready for lunch:

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Directed by Tom Davenport and produced by Davenport Films and the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC with Daniel Patterson and Allen Tullos, Born For Hard Luck is a portrait of the last Black medicine-show performer, Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, with brilliant harmonica songs, tales of hoboing, buck dances, and an authentic live medicine-show performance filmed at a North Carolina county fair in 1972.

In 2000, Davenport went on to create, a free website that allows users to stream a massive array of documentary and ethnographic films about American folk culture, ranging in subjects from aging and agriculture to immigrant culture and music and covering all regions of the United States.

Working with folklorist Daniel Patterson and others on the Folkstreams committee, Davenport submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities and received grant funds to build a prototype. Expansion of is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, regional and state Arts and Humanities organizations, private foundations, and contributions from filmmakers, scholars, and collaborating institutions. Preservation copies of films on are part of the SFC Collection (20384). 

P0004_0681_0001 (1) (1)L-R: Peg Leg Sam, Kip Lornell (with boom mic), Bruce Bastin, and Tom Davenport (with camera). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection (P0004), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

Four Provinces Orchestra: 78 of the week

78_16498_Southern Folklife Collection

There is more Billy Faier and Thornton Dial coming, I promise. Please do check back, we have been pulling materials from the Billiy Faier Collection (20380) to share with you, but until next week, we thought readers and listeners might enjoy a recording by the great Philadelphia based Irish ensemble, The Four Provinces. The group was founded and led by London-born, Irish pianist Edward Lee. Lee emigrated to the United States in 1916 and quickly put together an ensemble to play the lively Philadelphia dancehall scene, he also co-founded the Irish Musician’s Union (listen to this fascinating recording of Edward Lee’s brother, Joe Lee, at the British Library Sound Archive).

Released in 1924, “Reidy Johnson Reels” and “Kitty’s Wedding”, from 78 rpm disc call number 78-16498 in the UNC Libraries catalog are a wonderful collection of dance tunes. Enjoy a musical pick-me-up on a cold Friday afternoon.

“Reidy Johnson Reels” 

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“Kitty’s Wedding” 

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78_16498_Southern Folklife Collection_full